Constructing the Public Concert Hall

N.T. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the current discourse surrounding classical music institutions, issues of inclusion and diversity are regularly to the fore. There is pressure to prove the relevance of orchestras and ensembles to wider society, with outreach work in educational settings and in communities already an established part of their output. Using data gathered from a research project with the International Music and Performing Arts Charitable Trust Scotland (IMPACT Scotland), which is responsible for planning a new concert hall in Edinburgh to be called the Dunard Centre, this article extends these debates by relocating them to a new arena: the buildings classical institutions inhabit. First, the public nature of the concert hall is explored by examining three 'strategies for publicness' identified in concert-hall projects: the urbanistic strategy, the living building strategy and the 'art for all' strategy. These will be discussed in relation to the extensive literature on public space. The second part of the article examines recent developments in musicology and arts policy which encourage more 'democratic' arts practice. These will be used as the basis for asking how the concert hall (and its primary tenant, the orchestra) might better achieve the publicness that is so often promised on their behalf.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0269040321000177
Pages (from-to)255-281
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of the Royal Musical Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021




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